The Master of Customer Experience: What You Need to Know about the CXO

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Modern marketing increasingly concerns improving the customer experience; considering the needs of your users, delivering on their expectations, and delighting them in the process. Organizations are wisely prioritizing a consistent, pleasant, and compelling experience from the first touch through the sale and to re-engagement to differentiate themselves, improve processes, and build loyalty.

To handle this growing responsibility, a new C-suite executive is stepping up to the plate. The Chief Experience Officer (sometimes referred to as a Chief Customer Officer) is charged with leveraging best practices in user experience and innovating new ways to improve it, all with the ultimate goal of increased market share.

But to understand what the CXO does, you have to take a step back to understand why the position was created in the first place.

The Origin of Customer Experience

One of the first formal recognition of the potential of customer experience as a discipline was back in 2007. The Harvard Business Review noted its rise in an article entitled Understanding Customer Experience by Christopher Meyer and Andre Schwager. The authors argue that the customer experience with a brand extends well beyond simple customer care; it extends through the entire customer lifecycle, beginning with advertising and ending when the product is no longer used.

“Yet few of the people responsible for those things,” Schwager and Meyer write, “have given sustained thought to how their separate decisions shape the customer experience. To the extent they do think about it, they all have different ideas of what customer experience means, and no one more senior oversees everyone’s efforts.”

CXO Job Description

With the proliferation of mobile devices and the on-the-go consumer, many companies are putting the customer experience at the forefront of product discussions.

Having one go-to executive with the knowledge and authority to modify and calibrate the entire process makes it much easier to deliver a cohesive experience.

From consistent messaging and design principles, user-friendly applications, personalized ads, responsive service, and more, there’s a lot to build and maintain across an organization to deliver a better experience than the competition. Having one go-to executive with the knowledge and authority to modify and calibrate the entire process makes it much easier to deliver a cohesive experience.

While there has been a rise in chief experience officers– and other executive positions that are primarily concerned about the customer experience– the role is still new to the boardroom. Most individuals hired as the CXO are the first to hold that position inside a company.

The CXO’s Place in an Organization

In order for a CXO to perform at a high level, the individual must have deep relationships with the entire executive team, especially the CTO, the CIO, CMO, and CCO.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship–those more established executives stand to gain a lot by cooperating with the CXO and experienced team.

“CIOs today have a lot of challenges. They have a new technology stack to deal with that’s forcing them to rethink how they provide services,” Greg Petroff, CXO at GE says. “With the new technology stacks– like cloud and big data tools like Hadoop— you can do radically different things with the same amount of effort.”

Shep Hyken, Customer Service Expert, Gives His Thoughts On the CCO/CXO Role

video from Shep Hyken

Yet as important as a CXO can be in the boardroom, their teams of designers are also having a big influence on organizational processes. Heather Cassano, a former CXO at the Scholastic and current director of User Experience at Google, says the developers and engineers that code digital products should be closely integrated with the designers.

“The best way to do this is through an iterative approach where teams come up with creative ideas, developers and engineers implement those ideas and then those ideas get iterated on very quickly using the agile framework,” Cassano says. Having design integrated into the development lifecycle will result in a better end-user experience.

Leading an Experience Team

Carola Fellenz Thompson, CXO at Splunk, believes that the number one priority for the CXO should be to create a team that builds amazing user experiences to solve customer problems.

A well-built and managed experience team with executive authority offers a new kind of nimbleness that makes creating an organization-wide experience compelling and responsive.

“Aesthetics are great, we’re human beings and enjoy beautiful things, but the deep design hinges on understanding their users, so I want to make sure that people understand that,” she says. “Until we understand, there is no way that we can innovate.”

One way that CXOs do this is by bringing together professionals, such as experience designers, user experience researchers, front-end developers, and prototypers, under a single umbrella. For the first time, this group has a dedicated representative at the executive table and the ability to influence the company as a whole.

And that will offer innovative companies a competitive advantage. A well-built and managed experience team with executive authority offers a new kind of nimbleness that makes creating an organization-wide experience compelling and responsive.

So while the CXO may be the newer kid on the digital block, expect to see more organizations add this role in the near future. With the increased difficulty in designing a product that works across multiple devices in the new mobile-first world, the expertise and knowledge of a CXO will become increasingly important.

Finding Veteran Leadership in an Emerging Field

More and more organizations are realizing the need for a single executive of the customer experience. But there aren’t many to be had. Proven talent in this area, especially at the executive level, is very difficult to find.

Without help, many organizations will likely have to settle for first-timers, either by transitioning a current executive to the CXO role or promoting a promising and ambitious individual from the ranks of UX managers.


Surprising Mistakes Made During A Customer Experience Executive Search

The key to developing a great cross-functional approach is to have the right leader who can influence and be a champion internally for the customer. The right customer experience leader will be able to take responsibility for making the transition flow smoothly and be accountable for making change happen within the organization. Overcome these challenges and speed up the interview process by investing in a partnership with an experienced marketing executive search firm.

More on the Emerging Role of the Chief Experience Officer

Top 25 Chief Experience Officer LinkedIn Profiles

What do today’s Chief Experience Officers look like? See who the best are, and what they’re doing.

Does Your Company Need a Chief Customer Officer?

Marketing Magazine recently spoke to Harley Manning, founder of the customer experience practice at Forrester Research, to learn more about why customer experience has become such a crucial area of focus.

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